Paul McIntosh is the Executive Director of the California State Association of Counties. For more, visit The County Voice.

The California Legislature returned from its summer recess Monday and California’s counties are preparing for an onslaught of activity. Technically, the Legislature is supposed to adjourn August 30. All bills considered during this second year of a two-year session would expire if not approved by that date, so the month of August will be busy to say the least.

I say the Legislature “technically” is supposed to adjourn by August 31 because the overriding issue yet to be resolved is a state budget for the fiscal year that began on July 1. As has been reported here in the past, there has been very little activity on moving a budget forward.

Senator Denise Ducheny, Chair of the Budget Conference Committee, has scheduled a couple of sessions for this week, but it remains to be seen what will be on their agenda. As in past years, the final push will depend upon the Big Five resolving the larger issues – many of which remain in this budget. There have been no Big Five discussions to date, and there do not appear to be any on the immediate horizon. The record late date for adoption of a budget was set in 2008 when the budget was completed on September 21.

Budget aside; there are a number of bills that remain in the Legislature that could dramatically impact California’s counties. Details of several bills are listed in the CSAC E-Bulletin that was published last Friday. Click here for access to that bulletin. Highlights of some of the bills CSAC is tracking include:

AB 155, by Assembly Member Tony Mendoza, would require local agencies to receive the State’s permission when seeking bankruptcy protection. The effect of AB 155, were it enacted, would be to unnecessarily delay a local agency’s entry into bankruptcy, conceivably to the point of default. It would also require locals to spend considerable money and open them to litigation at precisely the time they can least afford it.

SB 1399, by Senator Mark Leno, would establish a medical parole program for physically or cognitively incapacitated state prison inmates. According to information provided by the sponsor , 32 inmates alone (who are either in a California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) treatment bed or in an outside hospital) cost the state $42.6 million annually. This figure includes costs for both medical care and guarding.

SB 1207, by Senator Christine Kehoe, is virtually identical to the measure that was vetoed by the Governor last year. This bill would amend the general plan safety element requirements for state responsibility areas (SRA) and very high fire hazard severity zones (VHFSZ).

Two bills that would change the way final compensation is calculated for the purpose of determining a retirement allowance continue to move through the Legislature. SB 1425, by Senator Joe Simitian, amends the Public Employees Retirement Law and the State Teacher’s Retirement System law, while AB 1987, by Assembly Member Fiona Ma, makes changes to the 1937 Act County Retirement law. The bills are the Legislature’s attempt to curb “pension spiking”, where employees artificially inflate their compensation in the year(s) immediately preceding retirement in order to receive larger pensions than they otherwise would be entitled to receive.

SB 771, by Senator Elaine Alquist, was amended last month to extend Medi-Cal eligibility to emancipated foster youth up to age 26. Not only would this important legislation provide a health care lifeline to emancipated foster youth who face significant challenges as they enter early adulthood, but it also would allow the state to draw down federal matching funds and align California with the recently enacted federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).

These are but a few of the many bills CSAC will be tracking over the course of the month. It will certainly be a busy one.

For more, visit The County Voice, a place where CSAC, county officials and stakeholders can voice their thoughts on governance and issues that impact California’s 58 counties.